Bebe Stores to close all stores, becoming latest retail casualty

Women's clothing retailer Bebe Stores said Friday that it would close all of its locations after a string of losses, becoming the latest casualty in the retail sector as the fallout from online competition and shifting fashion preferences spreads.

The company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it had signed a deal with liquidator Tiger Capital Group to sell all of its remaining inventory. The retailer expects to close all of its stores by the end of May 2017.

The exact number of stores was not immediately available. Bebe had 180 locations as of Jan. 2, according to a separate SEC filing. The company said in a March 22 press release that it had 134 retail stores and 34 outlet locations and sold products through another 75 locations.

The company's demise, which apparently comes without a bankruptcy filing, continues a wave of implosions among national retailers, as malls face declining foot traffic.

Bebe joins clothing store chains The Limited and Wet Seal among the recent chains to go away. Rue21 also recently said it would close up to 400 stores.

Retailers are grappling with intense online competition, namely from Amazon, and nimble brick-and-mortar competitors such as H&M and Forever 21.

Bankruptcy filings of other retailers within the last several weeks have included Payless ShoeSource, Gander Mountain and HHGregg.

Details of Bebe's liquidation plans were not immediately available Friday. Executives at the company's California headquarters could not be reached for comment. Representatives for Tiger Capital Group were not immediately available for comment.

Bebe's strategy was predicated on designing and selling its own line of women's clothing that it called "unique, sophisticated and timelessly sexy," which the chain said defined "next-generation chic while staying true to its assertive, provocative origins."

Its products included active wear, tops, dresses and accessories.

Founded by CEO Manny Mashouf in San Francisco, Calif. in 1976, the store drew its name from Shakespeare's phrase, "To be, or not to be."

The company had previously said it would close 21 locations.

Bebe had said in March that it would explore "strategic alternatives for the company," which often includes a sale.

The company's sales for the first six months of its 2017 fiscal year, a period that ended Dec. 31, totaled $189.2 million, down 13.5% from a year earlier. The company posted a net loss of $13 million during that period, down from $22.5 million a year earlier.



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